News

Truck driver charged with sex trafficking, child porn possession

By Dan Colton
for The Beacon

Mutters, Dennis E.

DENNIS MUTTERS

A Tennessee trucker was arrested in Sheboygan earlier this month after suspicions of human trafficking.

According to court documents, a Wisconsin State Patrol trooper made contact with truck driver Dennis Mutters, 53, of Selmer, Tenn., near a Sheboygan gas station. It was Nov. 13, police said, when the trooper noticed Mutters exit the truck’s sleeping compartment with an underage girl.

“Given … the large disparity in age between the two of them, and Mutters’ out of state address … (the) concern for human trafficking was increased,” police said in a criminal complaint. “Ultimately, the two were separated and interviewed.”

During the course of investigation, police said the 17-year-old girl told police Mutters met with her in Wisconsin four to five times. The girl described Mutters as her “friend,” according to court documents, and permitted officers to search her phone messages.

Police said they discovered a video of the girl performing sexual acts.

Mutters also allowed officers to search his truck, court records indicate, and multiple sexual items were found inside, as well as a 2019 high school year book police believe belonged to the girl.

Authorities said Mutters’ mobile phone was seized and searched following his arrest.

Among the evidence against him, police said Mutters was also pimping the girl through text message contacts.

“She’ll be your Mistress, like I’m her master,” Mutters is alleged to have messaged an unidentified person in April. During that text exchange, police said Mutters additionally provided explicit photographs of the girl.

Multiple photographs were found on his phone dating back to March, police said. The girl can be seen in sexual poses, police said, and Mutters and the interior of his semi-truck are depicted in some of the pictures.

“Mutters is looking into the camera while holding a cigarette with a smirk on his face,” in one example, according to court records. In another photograph, police allege, the girl has a baby’s pacifier in her mouth.

“(The alleged victim) described how she and Mutters met online in January of 2019 and developed a relationship to the point where she now loves Mutters,” court documents say. “(She) described how she had low self-esteem and that Mutters made her feel good about herself.”

Police said the two stayed with each other in Mutters’ truck at a Sheboygan truck stop when he visited the area.

According to police, the alleged victim said Mutters was aware she was underage.

Mutters is charged with a total of 15 crimes: sexual intercourse with a child, exposing genitals, causing a child over 13 to view/listen to sexual activity, two counts of sexual exploitation of a child, child enticement, and nine counts of possessing child pornography.

He faces up to 315 years and three months imprisonment and $1.22 million in fines if found guilty on all charges. The court may also impose a $500 fine for each image and police said 148 images were recovered.

Mutters is in custody at the Sheboygan County Detention center with cash bond set at $150,000.

Law enforcement experts said Sheboygan County ranks near the top in the volume of human trafficking cases uncovered in Wisconsin. Human trafficking has been reported in all the state’s 72 counties.

“Sheboygan County is tied for second with Racine County in the number of reported human trafficking cases,” said retired Sheboygan Police Department detective Tamara Remington at a presentation earlier this year. “Milwaukee is number one and considered a human trafficking hub in the Midwest, or as some have said, ‘the Harvard of pimping.’”

Drugs, brainwashing and emotional manipulation are tools pimps use to control and coerce victims of the sex trade, Remington said. Authorities are pushing back, however, and a program called Sheboygan Safe Stay was initiated in 2015 to work with area motels and hotels to identify trafficking activity. Remington said the program led to numerous arrests.

Organizations including Safe Harbor, Love INC and Freedom Cry also work to support victims.

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